6 Things Your Small Business Can Learn from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google

In the age of the platform, there is much entrepreneurs can learn from these innovative businesses

Virtually all companies that have grown to become household names started as small businesses where at some point, an idea put into action catapults the venture into the corporate equivalent of celebrity status. In today’s complex business environment, corporations have had to be even more innovative and creative, while retaining tried-and-true strategic thinking to succeed.

Phil Simon, author of The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business says these innovative businesses share several common threads. “They embraced platform strategies really well, which is really the central message of the book. They built up their platforms and added different features or offerings.” The lessons that can be learned by these companies are applicable to any business, not just those in the high-tech or digital space, says Simon.

Keep reinventing yourself. In the Age of the Platform, companies that constantly reinvent themselves lead the pack. Keep adding planks to your platform. Start a newsletter. Become an expert at an online industry forum. Add new services or features to your suite of offerings. Find an underserved market niche and modify your product/services to fill their need. Write a white paper. Team up with a complementary business and share customers. Revamp your website. Whatever you do, don’t stand still. The moving target survives.  “As for when it’s time to do it, I would argue that you are better off doing it too soon than too late,” asserts Simon. “Companies like Microsoft that have been, traditionally, very late to things like search or cloud computing are trying to play catch up.”

Curate your customers. Apple curates many passionate users and turns them into partners (app developers for their iPhone and iPad) who pay back profits. How might your customers generate profit for you? Maybe you offer a reward for referring a new customer. Or create a wiki that enables customers to suggest new product lines. Think of new ways to get your customers expanding your brand for you. In the Age of the Platform, the fundamental relationship between a business and its customers is changing. “Just remember that you’re never going to make everybody happy and there is a kind of customer you’d want to go for,” says Simon. “When Facebook has 845 million users and it makes a change to one of its features, and it ticks off 1% of them, that’s a pretty good batting average, but you still have 8.5 million people who are upset.”

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